we want to get ahead of the workforce challenges and opportunities that are coming in the next decade.
A successful national effort to address underrepresented minority participation and success in STEM will be sustained. We worry that after an initial effort to address underrepresented minority participation in STEM, national attention may turn to some other crisis of the day and that initial momentum as well as incremental gains may be lost. In its landmark 2003 case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court wrote: “The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” The year 2028 is still almost two decades away; until that day when we will no longer need to focus on the participation of underrepresented minorities to ensure strength and equity in our science and engineering workforce, a deliberate national effort is needed to galvanize stakeholders and resources toward this end.
The potential for losing students along the pathway from preschool to graduate school necessitates a comprehensive national approach focusing on all segments of the pathway, all stakeholders, and the potential of all programs, targeted or nontargeted. Understanding that race and ethnicity—and all that group identity may mean for social, economic, and educational opportunity—comprise a key dimension of STEM educational attainment provides an important point of leverage for considering STEM education policy. Indeed, focusing on underrepresented minorities as a point of leverage in STEM education policy allows us to revisit existing education programs from a new perspective. As shown in Table 7-1, there are four existing approaches to the issue. In the first quadrant are policies that seek to affect education across fields for all groups. In quadrant two are policies and programs that seek to improve the educational opportunities across fields, but in particular for underrepresented minorities. In the third quadrant are policies and programs designed to improve science and engineering education for all groups. In the fourth quadrant are policies and programs specifically targeting underrepresented minorities in science and engineering.
Federal and state education policies and programs that affect underrepresented minorities, including those in STEM, can be identified in each of these quadrants. For example:
All Fields/All Groups: Universal Preschool, No Child Left Behind Act, Pell Grants
All Fields/Underrepresented Minorities: Affirmative Action, Top 10 Percent Admissions Rule (e.g., California and Texas policies for UC and UT undergraduate admissions)